Politics & Media
Mar 11, 2009, 10:09AM

What's next, we wonder?

On youth, the job market and careers.

Zac Bissonette at The Daily Beast via Alternet.org wonders if 2009 is the worst year to graduate college since, well, ever. The piece opens with the story of a recent graduate named Tyler:

With a double-major in Spanish and psychology and a strong GPA, he thought for sure he was on the fast track to a career in event planning, a field he'd secured a summer internship in, palling around with the stars of CNBC. But with corporations scaling back their parties and conventions (lest they be associated with seamy AIG-style taxpayer-funded beach junkets), Tyler found himself working in loss-prevention for Brookstone for $10.50 an hour. Then he was laid off. Now he's substitute teaching for $10 an hour.

Stories about fruitless recession-era job searches are quickly becoming everyone’s favorite depressing topic. If you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, look no further than Joseph Young’s strangely fascinating piece today on Splice. But underemployed writers forced to write product description about juicers and overqualified event planners-turned-substitute teachers aren’t the only symptoms of our underperforming economy.

There are those of us who graduated a couple years ago and managed to land respectable, decent jobs at mid-sized or large companies, and who expected to quickly move on to bigger and better things, either with the same company or at a different one. As the economy soured, however, hopes of advancement quickly gave way to fear of layoffs. Shifts in departments, responsibilities and personnel have taught us bureaucratic maneuvering skills on the run.

Even if we were spared the axe, though, we still find ourselves at the bottom of the corporate food chain. Our jobs are fine—but they’re not what we expected to be doing a couple years down the road. What’s next, we wonder? We hadn’t planned on graduate school, but it looks like that might be the only truly safe harbor. Or should we just hold on to our job for now and hope that things improve before we turn 30?

I hope that this doesn’t come across as a big whine. I’m very grateful to have a relatively secure job. But I’m wondering when I get to actually start my “career.”

  • Ian, you don't come across as a "whiner" at all. Just someone who's in the same situation as millions of Americans. The younger you are, however, the better, for when this recession ends--an open question--it'll be fueled by new entrepreneurs and new companies, names unknown at the present, but bound to be omnipresent in five years.

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  • Oftentimes what looks like "a career" in retrospect was merely a sequence of decisions made one at a time, on the best information available at the given instant. It's like an optical illusion: we are likely to fill in the gaps to make a pattern, whether or not one exists. A single trajectory could be several careers, depending on the eye of the beholder. Also, hang in there.

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